I am working on my science curriculum this summer. I am trying to add more project type activities. One chapter I have is on ecosystems. We do forest ecosystems – deciduous, tropical rain forest, coastal forests, coniferous forests, desert ecosystems, grassland ecosystems and water ecosystems – fresh and saltwater.
I was thinking about dividing the class into small groups giving each group a different ecosystem. Then I was going to have them pretend to be zoologist and research their ecosystem. Their job would be to design a new exhibit in the zoo for their ecosystem. They would need to know what plants, animals, temperature, etc. Then they would have to actually design the exhibit. I'm not sure if I am going to do this on paper, diorrama (sp?) or what. Finally they would present their exhibit to the class.
How does this sound? Can 3rd graders handle this? Any ideas to add or change?
Hi stlcardinals! I am guessing that you are from the St. Louis area?? I found a site that has a unit on ecosystems (and units on a few other topics we study in 4th grade science). I thought that I would be able to tweak it to fit some of my needs, hope it helps you too.
I love your idea for the zoo. I might give it a try and put my idea on hold.
My ecosystem unit is slightly different because we focus on food chains/webs. I though I would share it with you and maybe you can incorporate it into what you are doing.
First, I collect all kinds of habitat books from the library. For about a week before I begin the unit, students read as many as they can so they are familiar with a variety of habitats.
Then, students work in pairs, choose a habitat, gather the books about that habitat, and make a list of plants and animals that live in that habitat. At the same time, I am teaching about food chains and food webs.
When the student's lists are completed, individuals design their own food chain. I take a piece of 12" x 18" paper and cut it into two 6" x 18 inch parts. These two parts are laid and taped end to end to form a long 6" x 36" sheet. On this, the students draw, outline in a thin black marker, and color the plants and animals in their food chain. At the very end, they leave enough room for their food chain poem. Here is an example:
These are the young owlets
that were fed by the mother owl,
that caught the slithering snake,
that swallowed the bumpy toad,
that gobbled the milkweed beetle,
that fed on the milkweed pod,
that grows in the meadow where Jessica lives.
The title is the habitat and the body of the poem is the plants and animals shown in the food chain poster. This is also a good way to use the thesaurus to find verbs that are specific and make a clear picture. The last line repeats the habitat and the child's name.
every year my 4th graders and other classes select an ecosystem to make into a diorama: we get shoeboxes and they can paint or decorate(with paper) the inside of the boxes..some students bring in things: shells, rocks, grass, sand/dirt, plastic figurines, stickers, etc,,,then we use clay to add finishing touches(animals, cactus)....we do this every year and it's a great, fun project.... I am being moved to 3rd and plan on doing this project again with my 3rd graders!! we leave them out for open house, but I think in 3rd they study ecosystems first, so I won't be able to have it for display for open house this year.
One teacher actually ties it in with an animal report and the ecosystem they create needs to go with the animal they researched.....
I have seen the dioramas done and the students always love to make them. I have also seen students make terrariums to represent at least one ecosystem as a more long term project because they can observe what it takes to keep that particular ecosystem alive. This can be done is small groups or just have one for the class.
We read I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and then each student creates a person or other top consumer animal using paper plates and brads for the belly. Then they research food chains in different ecosystems, and choose one to write (using the pattern format from the story), illustrate, and demonstrate the food chain. We all love to read the finished products.
This is how I introduce food chains/webs... I cut and paste different photos of animals and plants from the internet. The photos are small enough where I can fit them all in a 4 X 5 table (a picture in each box). Then I have students cut each box. Students organize living creatures as herbivores, omnivores, carnivores, and producers (namely plants). Students begin to create a food chain on construction paper, glue it and draw arrows to each link (transfer of energy flow). Then you can have them take it a level higher by adding other animals into the picture, creating a food web (competition). This has been working pretty well for me and a great way to introduce vocabulary.
Sometimes when I introduce these concepts, I would draw the food web right in front of their eyes and introduce vocab. that way, they love to watch their teacher draw and color. It's a great way to get kids attention and getting them talking about the topic.